Santa Monica Lookout
Santa Monica Youth Center Recovery Impeded by Internal Battle, Documents Show
By Jason Islas
The former board members claim that de la Torre had repeatedly blocked attempts by the board to make changes to the organization required by the City, which provides 75 percent of PYFC's operating budget.
City staff found problems with the organization's bookkeeping, such as duplicate checks paid to staff members, including de la Torre.
One of those changes was asking de la Torre to step down as executive director of the organization, which helps at-risk youth.
“Oscar charged that we were trying to take PYFC away from him,” Amanda Seward, who had been chair of the PYFC board for three years, wrote in her resignation letter dated December 12, 2012.
“The truth was that the administration of the organization had not been in accordance with the requirements of nonprofit organizations, nor met the best practices required of our major funder,” she wrote.
De la Torre said there were “serious ideological conflicts regarding the future and mission of the organization.
“There was a disagreement over the mission statement where the board members wanted to eliminate advocacy and social justice,” he said, though Seward denies that the board ever wanted to get rid of social justice as part of the organization's ethos.
“This is about power,” de la Torre said. “This is about people wanting to have control over things and people who believe that low income residents and people of color shouldn't have a voice.”
Only a few months ago, Seward was optimistic that the organization, which provides programs and counseling for at-risk youth, would be able to meet the City's requirements.
“It could've been so much and it's sad to see it deteriorate,” she told The Lookout Thursday. “I don't see a happy ending.”
City staff will recommend to the Council Tuesday that the organization no longer receive the annual grant of over $300,000 that makes up the majority of its funding, citing concerns over mismanagement. ("City May Take Over Santa Monica Youth Nonprofit Organization," January 4)
In her letter, Seward says that there was inadequate oversight over payroll, that at least one employee -- who ended up selling drugs at the center -- was hired without a background check and that there had been a high turnover of staff, all of which indicated a need for new leadership.
In May, the City Council voted to give PYFC until the end of the year to clear up various financial irregularities and administrative problems that City staff had found.
Craig Losoya, one of the board members who stayed on, saw a personal conflict.
“Certain members felt that it would be better for the organization to oust Oscar,” he said, adding that he felt that there was a rush to get de la Torre to sign a letter of resignation.
Former board member Ira McAliley resigned because he felt that on both sides, there was a “fight and defend mentality.
“Instead of engaging in respectful dialogue,” he said, “a culture of mistrust has developed.”
De la Torre had grown distrustful of some members of the board, including Captain Wendell Shirley of the Santa Monica Police Department, according to several of the letters.
Since he was a City employee, de la Torre said that there was “a conflict of interest” for Shirley to be on the board.
De la Torre alleged that a December 7 report by a consultant hired by the City to oversee PYFC's changes was “very biased” and part of a “pattern of bias and perceived discriminatory practices under the authority of City Manager Rod Gould,” calling for an investigation of the City Manager. ("Santa Monica Youth Center Director Files Complaint Against City Manager," January 3)
It wasn't that he was asked to step down that bothered him, de la Torre said.
“I've been trying to step down for the last year. I had to stay on to keep this organization running,” he said. “I didn't like the fact that they were trying to destroy the mission of the organization.”
|copyrightCopyright 1999-2012 surfsantamonica.com. All Rights Reserved.|